Thursday, February 28, 2008

Insomnia Rules

One of the compensatory things about insomnia is those nights when you head downstairs, get a bowl of cornflakes, and turn on the television. There's usually something strange on, especially now when I only have the four Irish channels faintly received by my half-assed indoor antenna. I often find myself in the midst of some weird film like that gruesome one about the young space soldiers fighting giant bugs (I felt sorry for the bugs, it being their planet afterall) or that strange Lovecraft movie I watched to the end without ever understanding it, or that old RTE black-and-white production of Ulysses with Cyril Cusack as Bloom peeking through the keyhole as his wife Molly had sex while shouting out her famous soliloquy (given the soap opera crap RTE churns out these days, it was an amazing production! made in the 50s, I think). Sometimes it's reruns of The Panel (love dem lads) or Cold Case which I also love though the story-lines are oh so lame and she definitely got a face lift by the second season. Last night turned up this gem. RTE redeeming itself with a programme called Other Voices. It's music from the outer fringe. At first I thought I was looking at archives from the 60s/70s what with the reconstituted hippies and the young old-rock boys. But nope, it was 21st century footage.Sinéad O'Connor was brilliant, but Seasick Steve, coming into his own in his sixties (hup ye boyo!)was definitely the best. Here he is in all his glory. If you want to see the whole show go here:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Japanese Gas Attack

I'm nearly finished Murakami's Underground, about the poison gas attack on the Toyko subway system in 1995. It's mesmerising, but also deeply upsetting and unsettling. The Aum cult was based on a form of Vajrayana Buddhism which 'speeds up' awakening or enlightenment through various practices. That means the people in the cult were supposedly dedicated to a philosophy and spiritual path which cherishes life. Instead, the cult deteriorated into weapon stockpiling, poison gas manufacture, mind control through drug use, imprisonment and torture of dissidents, and finally murder and terrorism. When reading Murakami, you get the sense that the truth has not been fully revealed. Before the attacks on the subway, the cult had murdered an anti-cult lawyer and his wife and child, and had already released sarin gas in another area in an attempt to murder three anti-cult judges. Had these incidents been properly investigated, the gas attack on the subway would not have occurred. In fact, it appears the police were prevented from fully investigating the earlier crimes. Call me a conspiracy theorist (oh yes), but it looks as if the cult was - and still is - protected by powerful people in the Japanese government. Because here is the weirdest thing of all about it: though they killed all those innocent people and are banned in Europe and North America as a terrorist group, they are still operating in Japan under a new name, Aleph!!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sinking Ship

Growing older (read: growing old) is like that simulated exercise we did in the navy, where water kept flooding the room while me and my buddies screamed and swore and sawed planks of wood and shored up openings wherever we could find them. But sure enough, as soon as we got one area secured, another leak gushed forth. Yes, that is how I feel about the onset of old age. I mean I'm doing a great job, assisting excellent genes (both my parents always looked ten years younger) with organic food, organic skin care, supplements, yoga, Tai Chi, walking, and regular visits to the gym; but still, it's creeping in, no doubt about it. And even as I shore up one trouble spot - colour in the hair, a good push-up bra - another area falls. Bit like the Roman Empire, come to think of it, but I don't want to mix my metaphors. There will come a day when I will surrender. Like Colette's Léa in The Last of Cheri (based on herself methinks), I shall just give up the battle, eat pastries and chocolates, and become a little fat old lady who laughs all the time. But not yet. Not today.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jumpin' Jehosephat

I forgot to say how that brilliant day ended. On my way back home through the mountains, I stopped at my friend Sherron's house. She wasn't home, but two of her boys - Kai and Indie - were playing out the back on their trampoline, doing fabulous somersaults and everything. "Hey!" they shouted to me, "Are you coming to play?" For a moment I hesitated, as the poopy old adult in me thought of the long drive back to Bray and all my responsibilities etc etc. But thank goodness the kid quickly got the upper hand and there I was pulling off my shoes and clambering through the net and jumping good-oh. "Do a somersault!" they yelled. Well. Save that for another day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Brilliant Day

It began with a fat cheque arriving for Public Lending Rights and just kept going up from there. Finn received a parcel of French newspapers from her Dad, who's in Paris at the moment, so she decided we had to have croissants and café au lait for petit déjeuner (mais oui!). Then I headed off over the mountains for my annual visit to Tom Bombadill and Goldberry a.k.a the fabulous writer Herbie Brennan and his fabulous herbalist/crystal healer/writer wife Jacquie Burgess and their eight darling cats. As always, there was a scrumptious lunch beginning with a spicy root soup, green salad with rocket, smoked salmon on brown bread, hummus and tapenade. The piece de resistance (very French today) was a savoury pie cooked in the Aga - carmelised vegetables covered with a puff pastry and then flipped when done. (I'll get the recipe, it was superb.) Couldn't manage the chocolate biscuits with my coffee as I was about to burst!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Jewel, My Daughter

My daughter turned 18 today. I honestly don't know what to say about that. She's the best thing that has ever happened to me in this lifetime of mine. A godsend, a blessing, a stroke of sheer good fortune, a gift. She's beautiful. On the inside and the outside. Since the day she arrived, she has never ceased to amaze me. In the early weeks of her birth, she used to sleep on my chest, like a kitten. One night I woke up, aware that I was being watched. There she was, wide awake, her huge eyes gazing at me. I gazed back. In that look, these thoughts were exchanged: isn't this amazing? isn't this hilarious? that I am here as your baby and you are my mother? And we both started to laugh, real belly laughs, baby and mother, at the great cosmic joke of it. Then I fell back asleep again. There have been many more laughs since. As a toddler, as a tweenie, and now as a teenager, she had and has a brilliant sense of humour, plus that Irish knack for mimicking. I am often in stitches. Only last year we fell around the kitchen laughing, after a brief chat about the Irish national anthem. She knows it in Irish and I, in English. But when I mentioned the phrase "some have come from that land beyond the waves" and commented on what an oblique reference it was to the ancient enemy, England, her eyes widened. "What? I thought it was about Tír na nOg! And the fairies coming to Ireland." Well, we were sick laughing. Only an Irish kid would think that fairies would be mentioned in their national anthem. Mind you, she can be Canadian, too, and likes to play it up with her friends. She has the accent down pat, and is fluent in French as well as Irish. Okay, now I am bragging. Happy Birthday, a stór!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Post Valentine's Post

One of the great things about St Valentine's Day is the chocolate. Apparently there was a survey somewhere that said the majority of women prefer chocolate to sex. Hmm. I'd like to see the demographics for that, i.e. age, marital status, income etc Here's a pic of my chocolates - sorry, the crinkly paper caused a bit of flashback. These are, I tell you, the yummiest chocolates I have yet to taste. Avoca, hand-made, not an orange or strawberry cream in sight. The best was definitely the crispy truffle, that's the one with the little round cap on it. I tell you, it was almost as good as ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Is my favourite meal of the day, except maybe brunch, but that's just breakfast after a lie-in. Okay, maybe brunch is my favourite. Here are the things I like to eat for this meal: toast, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, a big fry of tomatoes, mushrooms, bocksty (potato cake), beans, and egg, porridge with apple, raisins, and cinnamon sprinkled with roasted sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds (oh and when cooking, stirred with the hand-carved spirtle my friend Dave gave me for my birthday - a neat thing and a new word, could it get any better?), French toast with crispy bacon (the latter when I fall off the vegetarian wagon), warm-out-of-the-oven croissants made by Finn and served with a mashed banana, nutmeg, cinnamon and honey sauce, freshly brewed coffee (Fair Trade, organic) or hot Earl Grey Tea (Fair Trade, organic). Latest addition, thanks to my friend Frank and his travels in Algeria: cold cous cous served with pineapple, blueberries, banana, grapes, pear (or any fruit you like) topped with yoghurt and maple syrup. YUM.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mountain Gals

Out in the mountains today hiking with the Second Sunday Hiking Group. We climbed Mullacor through the mist, stopped for lunch by a great pine forest, crossed paths with the Wicklow Way and headed for the beautiful Glenmalure. More pics on Book Blog as this is Dana's territory in The Light-Bearer's Daughter. The dog is Nancy who came with us. She belongs to Kerenza of the fabulous Cathleen ní Houlihan hair. We are the stragglers I'm afraid and the rest of the hikers, including Mike who took the photos, are a good bit ahead of us! (Photo credit: Michael McGovern)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Coyote Girl

I was pointed to this blog by a comment on the 'wolves' post on my Book Blog: This beautiful young woman - photographer, writer, cowgirl - lives in a one-room cabin in Wyoming and has reared a baby coyote along with her tom cat (you have to see the pics!). What an amazing story, what amazing photographs, and what an amazing human being! (Photos: Shreve Stockton)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Shrove Tuesday (yesterday)

Yes it was and yes we had pancakes. Finn made her usual fabulous banana pancakes adapted from a Delia Smith recipe. You cannot go wrong with Delia Smith. They are always thin as crepes and you roll them up like scrolls, sprinkle them with brown sugar, add a squeeze of lemon, and then drizzle with maple syrup (Canadian, of course). A pot of redbush tea is the perfect complement. So this is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In mediaeval times it was a serious event, like Ramadan for Muslims. Now instead of fasting you give up something for the duration. In Ireland it means going off the drink, yes total abstinence, with a dispensation for St Patrick's Day and then back to the drought. Funny oul race.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Happy Dog

Meant to mention in post below. On Sunday I also popped by Eddie the gardener's house to visit Bruce. He remembered me! I hugged him and kissed him and he wagged his tail like mad and licked my face and slobbered all over me and I was just bursting with happiness to see him settled and happy in his new home. He didn't seem so huge in the big warm living room and the girls told me stories about him (he was listening the whole time, delighted), about how funny and affectionate he is. When Eddie was sick, Bruce stayed by his side the whole time. When anyone lies on the floor to watch TV (there are six kids in the house and they all adore him and he adores them), he lies down beside them. The littlest girl sometimes climbs into his great bed and lies down beside him! It's a happy ending to a sad story and I am so glad to have been part of it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Year of the Earth Mouse

Yesterday, I headed off to Jampa Ling in Co. Cavan with my trusty sidekick Dave. We went for Losar which is Tibetan new year and the day when all Tibetans (and, also, Mongolians) celebrate their birthday. It began with a fire puja outside the big house. Rinpoche said prayers as the boughs of cedar burned. In circumambulation around the fire, we walked through the clouds of white scented smoke (for purification), chanting OM DUM SWAHA, OM AMRITA AYUAR DADE SWAHA, the mantra of Ush Nish Vijaya, Goddess of Victory. We also tossed cedar into the fire ourselves and threw rice into the air. Then there were prayers in the shrine room and everyone gave Rinpoche khatas (silken scarves). Then we ate the food offerings of sampa, dried fruit and nuts, and these yummy curly bread twists. After that, we had a big feast in the dining room - everyone brought food to share - and there was a proper Irish hooley, with musicians and people singing and children dancing. Here's what I bought from the shop: a blessing to hang in my car, Folk Tales of Tibet by Norbu Chophel, gorgeous silver earrings for Finn (for her upcoming birthday), and a red-and-gold box of Lhasa incense. It was a great day!